Take It From a Vet: Your Dog’s Meds Aren’t Optional

Establish a medication routine with your dog so he’s happy and healthy.

Your pet needs you to be on top of her medication schedule. By: flickrized

Does it matter if you miss a dose of your dog’s antibiotic? Probably not. OK, there’s a risk of inducing antibiotic resistance with a skipped dose, but that doesn’t mean your dog’s life is in danger.

But how about if a diabetic dog skips a dose of insulin? Again, far from ideal, but a one-off oversight isn’t usually life-threatening.

But several missed injections? That’s a different story. This leads to ketosis — a condition where the body poisons itself.

Work-Life Balance

Unfortunately, the diabetic dog scenario is one I encountered a few days ago.

Late Saturday afternoon, I heard the receptionist booking an emergency appointment (or, rather, begging the person to bring her dog in). From the receptionist’s strained tone, I gathered she was worried.

Turns out, several days earlier, the dog’s caretaker had dropped her dog’s bottle of insulin. She’d been busy and this was her first chance to phone. In the meantime, the dog’s diabetes ran out of control.

Indeed, despite the fact that her dog was vomiting and not himself, the person wasn’t especially worried. In fact, she complained how inconvenient this all was and wanted to wait for the following week.

At the risk of sounding preachy, that person should be thankful the receptionist insisted that the dog came down straight away — no matter how inconvenient. Quite possibly, that staff member saved the dog’s life because he arrived ketotic, vomiting, dehydrated and within a whisker of life-threatening deterioration.

Unintended Consequences

Regularly missing doses of any medication has consequences, some more serious than others. A simple thing like giving prescribed medications on time can make a material difference to your pet’s health.

So let’s look at why it’s important to follow directions when giving meds to your pet.

Insulin injections and a feeding schedule are inextricably linked for dogs with diabetes. By: Clarice Barbato-Dunn

Insulin Injections

Insulin injections are the treatment of choice for diabetics. Depending on the type of insulin your pet is prescribed, it’s commonly given as once- or twice-daily injections.

The injections are an important part of a set routine linked to feeding time. Again, the actual timing depends on cat versus dog, the patient’s diet and the human’s schedule, but once the timing’s established, it really helps to stick to the same drill every day. This allows the body to set a rhythm with regard to utilizing that injected insulin to process food.

If you are held up at work and the injection is an hour or 2 late, no big deal. Just go ahead with the feeding routine as normal. If you’re mega late, then giving a half-dose is a good idea — a full dose will still be in the system when it’s time for the next injection and could push the blood sugar level too low.

Indeed, if your pet doesn’t eat as expected, give a half-dose of insulin on schedule. But if the pet doesn’t eat for 24 hours or — heaven forbid — you don’t give the insulin for a couple of doses, contact the vet immediately. Not doing so risks blood sugar levels that run consistently high, triggering the body to break down fat to supply cells with energy — but this is “dirty” fuel that produces toxins as a byproduct. Those toxins, or ketones, slowly poison the body.

Happily, the dog that inspired this article responded well to supportive care and is being put back on his meds. Disaster averted — thanks to an insistent receptionist.

Anti-Convulsants

Another important medication that needs conscientious dosing is the anti-convulsant containing phenobarbital. This is one of the commonly prescribed drugs for dogs who seizure.

On the label of the pot, it may say “X tablets, given twice daily” or, if your vet is really on the ball, “X tablets every 12 hours.” The timing matters — phenobarbital clears from the body very quickly. After just 12 hours, the blood levels start to fall and can dip below that needed to prevent a seizure from breaking through.

Thus, in some dogs, giving the pill late can leave them vulnerable to a fit. Don’t stress if you get held up at work, but the take-home message is give the meds 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., or 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., rather than on an ad hoc basis.

Antibiotics

Last and certainly not least, antibiotics. If the label says “X capsules, 3 times daily,” that antibiotic should be given every 8 hours. Again, get those dosing intervals wrong, and the blood levels dip, making that dose ineffective and running the gauntlet of creating antibiotic resistance.

So, please, respect your pet’s meds. Give them on time and plan ahead so they never run out. That way, you work with the vet to keep your pet healthy.

Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS

View posts by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS
Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, is a veterinarian with nearly 30 years of experience in companion animal practice. Dr. Elliott earned her Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery from the University of Glasgow. She was also designated a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Married with 2 grown-up kids, Dr. Elliott has a naughty puggle called Poggle, 3 cats, and a bearded dragon.

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